The Role of Women in Sanatana Dharma

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • December 20, 2022
Akka Mahadevi
  • Tips for men to help realise the value of women in contemporary India and some tips for women too.


Women are nation-builders. Women are not merely to be praised as Devis and then exploited.


When we value our women, our nation and our Dharma will prosper. 


Way back in the last decade when this author’s daughter was born, many qualified but uneducated people advised him to have a male heir. Further, they told him to save money for the child’s big-fat future Indian wedding. 


And yet we pride ourselves as champions of our Dharma. We worship various forms of the Holy Mother without caring for our mothers, sisters, and spouses. Even when we have the examples of Sr. Nivedita and earlier, of various Brahmavadinis; we still try to oppress women’s rights to be equal to men in all things. Men justify the oppression of women by saying that the latter have lesser strength than men. 


This author cannot understand why women are called Laxmi and not Mother Saraswati and how women are less than any man following our Dharma?


Here are a few points which can be followed to help men realise the value of women in contemporary India. And help men to raise their daughters as true followers of Sanatana Dharma:


Teach the girl child mathematics and English. Drill it into her that education and career are more important than marriage. Encourage entrepreneurship among teenage girls. Help them to defy stereotypes and study the basic sciences and arrange lessons from our Scriptures from a very early age. 


When these girls grow up they will be unafraid to fight for our Holy Dharma. Education is the one single factor that differentiates those whose Faith will be unshakeable in our Faith from those who will certainly lose theirs in times of crises since these latter women had not been taught discernment when they were girls. A girl who is educated and financially independent will be a firm pillar of the Dharma.


The need for financial independence of women can only be impressed strongly in women if we start educating them from their teenage years. Women have to suffer much in the hands of men since they are homemakers and are often actively discouraged in taking independent financial decisions. Once women are financially independent, then because of their simultaneous coaching in our Shastras, they will be missionaries of our Dharma in their own right.


Girl children are often discriminated in favour of male siblings to the point where girls are seen to be burdens from the time of their births. Yet our Scriptures and lived Faith teach otherwise. Let us not forget Akka Mahadevi and Mira Bai.


It is said of Akka Mahadevi that when she was refused audience by an aged male Shaivite monk whom she wanted to meet, the Saint asked how there can exist a man in the three worlds when Lord Shiva alone is the only man known to her? That destroyed the gendered thinking of the aged ascetic who till his encounter with Akka Mahadevi did not understand that within our Dharma, women are not only equal to men, but in fact, often, greater than men. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa had to learn Tantra formally from a female Tantric adept who came in search for the Master.


Stop giving and taking dowries in whatever roundabout way it is asked. It is outright criminal to ask for anything from a woman’s family. A woman suffers the most in a marriage. She must adapt to a completely new family. The experience often is devastating. 


Women should be grounded in our Shastras, and they should be taught how to worship in their houses as well as in our temples. Only then can We, as a Dharmic community progress. Anything which denies this fundamental right of direct ritualistic worship to women and girls is spiritually degrading. Women who are integrated in our Faith can pass it on to their children in the long future. We neglect our women at great collective peril.


We men are always lecturing women about how they should behave and their public conduct. Yet we men wear Western dresses, smoke, and drink. Best not to preach to our women about morality when we are hardly moral.  


To sum up, women should be well versed in our Faith and should feel accepted within our Faith not as disciples and followers of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. They should become flames of the fire of knowledge to others within our Faith.


We do not need dolls, we need Faith formators. This is the way of the Holy Mother. The ten Mahavidyas are not under the control of any male. They are free and represent women’s empowerment in the best sense of the phrase.


To read

1. All articles by author

2. All articles on Indian Women

3. Swami Vivekananda’s Vision for Women

4. Why Ahilyabai Holkar was a great woman


Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay has a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Calcutta. His reviews from 2010 to 2021 in Prabuddha Bharata have been showcased by Ivy League Presses. He has qualifications in Christian Theology and Hindu Studies and currently teaches English Literature in the PG and UG Department of a College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He also has qualifications in Behavioural Sciences. 


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